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A Guide to SEO Basics

Welcome to Ethical & Holistic
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Let’s get down to SEO basics.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a fundamental understanding of Search Engine Optimisation, and take away action items for your own SEO.

We’ll start by explaining the basics.

The thing to always keep in mind is that good quality SEO should always be both ethical and holistic.

A cup of coffee to start your SEO journey with.

What do you mean by ethical?

Ethical SEO means doing SEO the right way.  Some call it “Best Practice”, some call it “White Hat SEO”, but to be honest, it just means following the rules laid out by Google, and not cutting corners.

Ethical SEO takes more effort, but that effort will be rewarded, and if done right should pay dividends for many years to come.

There are many rash strategies out there trying to cheat the system (or get around Google’s rules), but these can harm your website’s reputation online and severely impact your future business success.

What makes SEO holistic?

SEO is a big box full of puzzle pieces.

Some of these pieces talk to Google bots (little programs that read your website and feed the information back to Google) and directly impact where Google makes you show up in search results.

Other pieces are indirect – they have a domino effect, and impact other factors that have an effect on SEO. These indirect puzzle pieces are a significant and valuable part of SEO as they impact the whole picture (i.e. your website’s SEO).

Some SEO companies only focus on certain puzzle pieces and ignore the rest that are left in the box. 

We at WebHolism take all the puzzle pieces into account so that you can have the strongest SEO plan possible.  This is called Holistic SEO.

So What Exactly Is SEO?

We’ll expand more in the following sections, but here are the basics.

SEO is …

setting up your website to be friendly with search engines so you are discovered online more often

finding ways to use other places on the internet to mention you

optimising what happens after someone lands on your website (like more sales or sign ups)

building trust with your target customers

SEO is not …

a one-size-fits-all solution

a formula to cheat the Google algorithm

Search Engine Optimisation will look different for you depending on your industry, your target market (AKA the people you want to reach), and details like whether people are looking at your website on a mobile or a desktop computer.

An effective SEO approach should be tailored to your business and website, and will most likely look different to an SEO approach for someone else.

Why the Heavy Focus on Google?

Great question!
Google is one of many search engines out there. Others include:

  • Bing

  • Yandex
    (popular in Russia)
  • Aol
  • Baidu
    (popular in China)
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Ekoru and Ecosia
    (eco-friendly search engines)

So why do we focus on Google? Google is the most popular search engine in the world, and by no small margin. As of July 2023, Google had over 92% search engine market share worldwide (see latest stats).

So, unless your target audience is Russian or Chinese, then Google is the search engine you’ll want to focus on, as the majority of your potential customers are using it. Google also has some of the most stringent (high quality) requirements, which means that if you win over Google’s algorithmic heart, the other search engines are likely to love you too.

“Organic” Traffic vs. Google Ads

Important to Know
When you search Google, your results page contains both paid advertisements and “organic” results.

“Organic” might make you think of farm-to-table food, but in this case, it means the natural rankings of the search engine algorithm.

In this screenshot, you can see how the first few results in this Google search are ads. When we talk about SEO, we are talking about ranking in the organic search results.

Google Ads is paid advertising, and can be a budget-friendly option for instantly driving customers to your website, if you can’t afford to hire an SEO agency.

SEO Is More Than Winning Over
The Mysterious Google Algorithm

If somewhere along the line someone told you that SEO is “getting your website to number one on Google,” you’re not alone.
We’re here to set the record straight.

This tunnel vision goal of reaching the top of a page of search results is a bit misguided. Of course everyone wants to be ranked highly, and SEO may very well get you there. But if that’s your only goal, you’re missing the depth of what holistic SEO can do for your business.

Imagine this: You would like to buy your mum a box of chocolates.

You pop into Google and type “buy box of chocolates” and click on the first result. After a few frustrating seconds, you can’t actually find how to order the chocolate you see on the page. The navigation is confusing and there are pop ups getting in your way. You click back to Google for the next search result, and that first business has lost you.

SEO is about getting found in the right places and then making sure your website is doing the right things to keep people engaged and ultimately buy/sign up/book your product or service.

Showing up in search engine results is only half of the story.

We believe that following the path all the way to the goal should be at the heart of SEO.

Think of it this way: SEO should pay for itself with the new volume of people who end up buying from you.
You can push people to your website all day, but if (1) they’re not the right people or (2) your website is not set up well, you’ve missed the boat.

But not to worry, we are here to help.

Quality and Trust Win SEO Every Time

Quality makes Google happy.

At the core of good SEO is a focus on “quality.” Google and other search engines get smarter every day, and they decide how much to feature your website in search results based (in large part) on the quality of your website.

Quality also helps internet users (AKA potential customers) to trust you.

Many of the methods we describe in this guide add up to “quality.” But here’s a preview of some of them:

Following Google’s best practice guidelines
Spelling, grammar, punctuation (that fits within your brand voice)
Unique text that is written exactly for your audience
All website pages and content being fit for purpose – they have a specific goal and directly and thoroughly address it
Getting your point across in a concise, direct way whilst still being true to your brand’s personality

Trust closes the deal.

Trust is the secret sauce of SEO success.

You can be best buds with Google, but in the end, if people don’t trust you, your path to success will be rocky.

In order for someone to take action on your website (like, buy from you), they need to move through the “Know, Like, Trust” process. Once they know about you, they need to like you. But before they’ll take action, they need to trust you.

If you’re doing the right things, you don’t have to agonise about the search engine algorithms. If people come to your website, buy from you, and show that they trust you, you will win.

SEO Methods Fit Under Three Categories

Now that we’ve set the foundation for your SEO Basics knowledge, we’d like to explain the three “umbrellas” of SEO.
If these terms are overwhelming to you, no sweat!
We will explain individual tactics in a following section, and label each approach with the “umbrella” it belongs to.

On-Page SEO

The way your website is set up comes under “on-page SEO.” This area is the most technical, and most directly affects search engine algorithms.

On-page includes things like:

Website speed (hosting speed, website speed and individual page speeds)

Keyword optimisation on each page

Https vs. http (security certificate)

Meta titles and descriptions

Unique quality content

Off-page SEO

The way the internet “talks” about your website and your business is called “off-page SEO.” This area has both a direct and indirect effect on the algorithms.

Off-page includes things like:

Link building

Reviews published on places that aren’t your website

Reputation management

Social media

Online promotion

Your brand’s trust and authority

Consistency in your business name and contact details across the internet

User Experience (UX)

What someone experiences when visiting and journeying through your website is called the “user experience.”

We are passionate about this crucial category, as many SEO companies overlook it or ignore it altogether. It is the essence of a holistic approach to SEO. This area has mostly an indirect effect on the algorithms. However, Google has publicly stated that they take these factors into account – it’s part of their secret sauce.

User Experience (UX) includes things like:

Responsive design for mobile and tablet views

Accessibility (for the blind, colour blind, partially sighted or mobility-limited)

Easy to read text (size and colour)

Text and content that speaks to your audience

SEO is a Long Game

Say you complete this guide, and take action on several SEO items. You may begin stalking page one of Google for your website.
Unfortunately, this is the part where we have to bring you back down to earth.
SEO will normally take between 6 – 12 months to kick in.

This depends on how competitive your keywords are (AKA how many other companies are trying to rank for the same search terms). If you have very competitive keywords it may take longer than 12 months, require some special TLC (writing articles, press releases, etc), and may need a lot of extra work to get you to your chosen goal.

The harsh reality is that the results of SEO are at the mercy of Google and the other search engines. There are a lot of websites out there for search engines to crawl and index, so they are pretty busy doing the best they can.

But don’t be disheartened! There are things you can do to speed up the process, and some changes can have an instant effect (such as improving the customer experience on your website resulting in more sales). We just want to manage expectations and let you know that the changes you implement will make a difference in the long run.

SEO is rarely a one shot success.

Whilst a large jump in the right direction can be made through a blitz of your website, it’s the ongoing care, networking, social media, fresh website content and constant increase of good quality backlinks that make a real impact on the success of your website and your business.

Make people happy and that will eventually trickle down to your search engine results.

Trust and quality really do win the game.

Need instant results in the meantime?

As we mentioned in the beginning of this guide, SEO efforts work towards getting ranked in the organic search results in Google and other search engines.

If you are looking for instant results in the meantime, try Google Ads.
Google Ads can help bridge the gap while your SEO efforts start to pay off. You will show up in search results immediately, and get some traffic to your website.


Your ads with Google (and your SEO) will both be affected if the wrong kind of people are being sent to your site.

If you don’t target the right audience (people who want your service or product), your ads may perform badly, you’ll be paying for something ineffective, and people might bounce away from your site, sending bad signals to Google. Sometimes the more niche keywords can perform better, especially if you have a small budget.  Keep in mind: the keyword someone is searching needs to directly match the page you’re sending them to.

Breaking SEO Action Items into Digestible Bites

It’s time to get our hands dirty.

Now that we’ve got a good SEO foundation laid and the three main areas of SEO outlined for you, let’s get into the nitty-gritty and explain individual strategies and methods.

We’ll break them into categories so they’re easier to digest.